Maybe you’ve heard that folks in Toronto are sharing cars instead of buying their own. Maybe you know, or you are, an AirBnB host who shares their spare room with visitors.

Across the country, Canadians are proving that access trumps ownership — and as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians facing our current economic situation, we can’t be far behind.

If sharing your car or your home feels like an unfamiliar concept, we need only look to more traditional places for examples of how we may already be participating in the sharing economy. 

If you’re lucky enough to have a community library, you’ve got the chance to access a collection of great novels without having to find permanent space for them on your shelf. If you’re a gym-goer, you’re paying a small monthly fee to use numerous shared machines that you would never use regularly enough to purchase yourself.

In a nutshell, the sharing economy is a model in which individuals are able to temporarily borrow or rent a particular asset that is owned, stored, and maintained by someone else. You may have heard other terms describing the same thing, like the “collaborative economy,” or the “peer-to-peer economy”.

The aforementioned AirBnB provides travellers with a greater ability to access their ideal accommodations: to save on cost, stay in an empty house, or be hosted by a local who’s excited to share their story and that of their hometown. Along similar lines, you can check out initiatives like DogVacay, which provides comfortable and affordable dog care for travelling pet owners. Other services like Fiverr or Fancy Hands give you access to a diverse network of freelancers with skills, experience, and credibility to offer your next project.

The global rise in share economy options can be attributed to advances in mobile technology, and of course, more and more of us are turning to services that allow us to save money without sacrificing things like home renovations, travel, or other creative pursuits. One of the best things about it, however, is the collaboration: people are at the heart of the sharing economy. 

Sharing in Newfoundland and Labrador

I believe that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are in many ways natural participants in the sharing economy. We are traditionally and today a people who will lend a hand (or a boat) to the folks nearby who could use the help. 

This model of sharing formalizes the values that make us who we are, and allows your neighbor to be your supplier of goods and services. Better still, in the process of sharing the resource(s) that bring you great benefit – whether that’s cost savings, an accomplished project, or a new experience – you get to know them a little better and connect to a broader community. That’s the fabric of who we are in this province, and because of that, our possibilities to leverage this model are endless.

Our current economic situation poses the immense challenge of increased costs of living, driving, and eating; of high and consistent unemployment; and of precarious work. When expenses increase and revenue can’t keep up, we must cut costs, or get creative.

When I look in my own home, my neighbours’ backyards, or my parent’s basement, I can’t help but notice a variety of items that were bought outright for one particular project, or are used perhaps two or three times a year. Items like the ladder we bought to clean out the gutters of our first home, or the shovels and rakes used to convert our backyard into a place to grow food for my family. All of these things took a chunk out of our monthly budget, are taking up space, and are collecting dust.

What if we shared them? What if I could access the ladder only when I needed it, without having to store it next to the washing machine downstairs? I save money, reduce clutter, and the ladder gets more use for its production cost. In the process, maybe I find out that my neighbor has always wanted to start a backyard garden, and I begin building a new community.

Space and cost savings, paired with the availability of new opportunities — this is the promise of the shared economy.

Ian Froude is the founder of the first-ever St. John’s Tool Library, a collection of tools — big and small — available to borrow whenever you need them for just $75 annually. Help the Tool Library get off the ground and into a storefront; click here to make a contribution today.